FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Mónica Novoa, NYCOSH
Office: (212) 227-6440 ext. 14
Richard Weiss, Greater New York LECET
Cell: (917) 560-0046
NYCOSH Construction Fatality Report, “Deadly Skyline,” Released Today,
Reveals Uptick in New York Construction Fatalities,
with Safety Violations at Nearly All Fatality Sites
Safety Advocates, Workers, Building Trades and Elected Officials, Call for Increased Training, Safer Worksites, and Stronger Regulations on Job Sites
January 18, 2016 – New York, New York – The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) held a press conference today with members from Greater New York LECET, the Building and Construction Trades Council, City Council members, and community organizations to release its latest construction fatality report, “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.” Researchers found that employers routinely violate legal regulations with impunity. Report findings and recommendations were revealed on the steps of City Hall. The report is available for download at nycosh.org and via bit.ly/deadlyskyline17.
“We need to take action now to end the crisis of rising construction fatalities in New York State. These deaths are almost always preventable and occur on non-union job sites 80% of the time. Latino workers compose the majority of fall fatalities—57% in 2015; and there is a strong correlation between employers who steal workers’ wages and who force workers to work under unsafe conditions,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH.
NYCOSH unveiled report findings on the day that a package of legislation was introduced by the New York City Council. NYCOSH explicitly called for legislation including an increase in training for construction workers and mandatory apprenticeship programs on large construction sites to create safer job sites. One worker, Prentice Miller of Brooklyn, spoke at the event on the need for effective apprenticeship programs.
“I was working in the non-union construction industry before Laborers Local 79 recruited me. Laborer’s rigorous apprenticeship program immediately provided me with training at no cost for my OSHA 10 card and other certifications, along with classes on how to avoid injuries and how to quickly assess if the job site is safe. The combination of classroom and hands-on training is the key to not only becoming a skilled trades person, but it also ensures we work safe in one of the most dangerous industries out there,” said Miller.
“The ‘Deadly Skyline’ report illustrates yet again what we know to be true: preventable construction fatalities are on the rise in New York City and the only way to end this epidemic is with training and safety requirements for all workers,” said Patrick Purcell, Executive Director of the Greater New York Laborer-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust. “Thankfully the wait is now over and meaningful construction safety legislation will be introduced in the City Council today that will ensure stringent safety and training standards. I want to thank NYCOSH for continuing to shine a light on the construction industry and how we can work together to protect all construction workers.”
“NYCOSH’s ‘Deadly Skyline’ report further exposes the crisis and epidemic afflicting construction sites across New York City,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the 100,000 member Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “New data shows an astounding increase in worker fatalities in New York State and New York City, as well as safety violations at 90 percent of construction fatality sites. The new legislation introduced by the City Council will go a long way towards creating higher standards in the industry and prevent more needless deaths of our brothers and sisters.”
Speakers also addressed the disproportionate impact that unsafe job sites have on immigrant construction workers. Latinos were found to make up 57% of fall fatalities in New York State; 33% of whom died on sites with willful violations, versus 5% of non-Latinos.
“This report confirms the lived experience of many immigrant construction workers: negligent employers do not limit exploitation to one aspect of their business: overwhelmingly the same employers who cheat workers out of their lawful wages ignore health and safety regulations as well. Increasing training requirements for high-risk jobs and expanding monitoring and enforcement is an important step towards creating a safe jobs and changing an industry that thrives on exploitation of immigrant communities,” said Deb Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York.
“As NYCOSH timely report reveals, the initiative of new legislation at both the City and State level to take action and hold contractors responsible for workers getting killed on the job, is certainly needed as concrete steps to protect worker’s lives,” said Omar Henriquez, Regional Organizer of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “Far too many workers, particularly immigrant workers, die as a result of contractors’ willful negligence of not providing a safe workplace.”
Members of the New York City Council attended the event to decry the number of workers killed and speak to the need for construction safety legislation at the City level.
“One fatality at a construction site is one too many and the City should be doing everything in its power to ensure the highest standards of safety are met,” said Councilman I. Daneek Miller. “This report will help us develop ways for us to meet our goals and I would like to thank NYCOSH for producing it and the advocates supporting the men and women in the construction industry.”
“The fact that 464 construction workers died on the job in the past 10 years is unacceptable,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “Workers have been falling out of the sky at alarming rates and it is time we do something about it. That is why I stand firmly with implementing new safety measures and supporting our labor unions. We must take these steps to ensure adequate protections for NYC workers, who put their lives on the line to build the skyline that we so
NYCOSH’s report unveiled a number of findings and recommendations to improve worker safety in New York State.
Partial List of Key Findings:
- Workplace fatality rates are trending upward in New York’s construction industry.
- Non-union construction sites are especially dangerous for workers.
- Employers who violate health and safety laws also cause worker fatalities.
- Latino construction workers die at a disproportionate rate due to falls and employers’ “willful” violations of health and safety laws.
- Wage and hour violators are more likely to be safety and health violators.
NYCOSH’s Recommendations Include:
- Require Adequate Education and Training, like OSHA 10 trainings for all New York City construction workers and apprenticeship programs for large projects.
- Preserve the Scaffold Safety Law, and Pass the NYS Elevator Safety Act to require workers to be licensed.
- Require new NYS “Criminal Contractors” legislation to establish effective penalties against contractors like Harco Construction, whose willful negligence causes a worker fatality; and look at revocation of licenses at the City level for employers who are convicted of felonies that cause a worker death.
- Develop new enforcement strategies informed by the intersection between safety and wage violations; and protect Latino workers proactively.
ABOUT NYCOSH: The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) is a membership organization of workers, unions, community-based organizations, workers’ rights activists, and health and safety professionals. NYCOSH uses training, education, and advocacy to improve health and safety conditions in our workplaces, our communities, and our environment. Founded in 1979 on the principle that workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths are preventable, NYCOSH works to extend and defend every person’s right to a safe and healthy workplace.
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